Newsmax is out with its list of the top 100 Christian leaders in America who make a real impact on modern lives in 2015.
Christianity’s challenges in today’s world of instantaneous information transmission and new brands of sin are not what they were a century ago, nor are they quite what they were during the socio-sexual revolution of the ’60s. And not all the names below are occupants of pulpits — not traditional physical pulpits, anyway.
The early 21st century is a time of slickly produced videos of mass Christian martyrdoms at the hands of fanatics acting in the name of Islam, a kind of high-tech return to the medieval wars between the two faiths. In the computer age, millions witness those atrocities within hours.
It is also a time when a new Pope seems poised to launch a reassessment of traditional Catholic moral teaching — and the American free-market establishment — that will spark spirited resistance within the church he governs. And so Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis and little known before Pope Francis’ election, features prominently on our list.
Entertainment and sports stars are not usually considered religious leaders, but today their influence often exceeds that of pastors and televangelists. Reality TV producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have resurrected the Christian entertainment industry with their hit series “The Bible” and “A.D. The Bible Continues.”
And what are stand-up comedians doing on a list of powerful Christians? Unlike some preachers, they don’t put their audiences to sleep or send them to the exits with their holier-than-thou attitudes. And although the Web may rule today, books — bought at Barnes & Noble or downloaded onto your Kindle — are also more influential than ever. So authors like Mark and Grace Driscoll, who reach spouses in troubled marriages who might never have encountered Christian evangelism, make our list because they go where no minister has gone before.
Idea leaders whose Christianity drives their effect on American politics are there too, like Reagan Justice Department official Alan Sears. But so are some of the nation’s most compelling preachers, like Kirbyjon Caldwell, who grew his mostly African-American congregation from barely filling a living room to a multitude that can overwhelm a modest stadium.
The evangelist’s soapbox is obsolete. Accepting Christ and committing sin against Him are both done sitting at a computer screen today. In response, the new world is bringing forth Christian leaders from some unexpected walks of life. Here are Newsmax’s top 100 Christian leaders in America:
1. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse.
2. Joel Osteen, televangelist, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, and best-selling author.
3. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, creators of the successful television series “The Bible,” and its spinoff, “A.D. The Bible Continues.”
4. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.
5. Billy Graham, legendary evangelist.
6. Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback evangelical megachurch in Lake Forest, California.
7. Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, Southern Baptist minister, and potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
8. Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.
9. Joyce Meyer, founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries, host of “Enjoying Everyday Life” TV and radio show, bestselling author of more than 100 books.
10. Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
11. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
12. Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, and former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
13. Thomas Spencer Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
14. The Rev. T.D. Jakes, apostle/bishop of the Dallas-based nondenominational megachurch The Potter’s House, whose impassioned sermons are broadcast internationally; founder of the “Woman Thou Art Loosed” movement; host of the “Megafest” revival that draws more than 100,000 people annually.
15. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York.
16. John Hagee, founder of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio, CEO of Global Evangelism Television and John Hagee Ministries, and founder of Christian-Zionist group Christians United for Israel.
17. Edward Atsinger III, CEO of Salem Media Group.
18. Victoria Osteen, televangelist and co-pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston and best-selling author of “Love Your Life” and various other children’s books.
19. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels.
20. Cardinal Raymond Burke, former chief of Vatican Supreme Court and most prominent opponent of Pope Francis’ liberalization of Catholic moral teachings.
21. Father Jonathan Morris, Fox News contributor, author, and Catholic priest; special assistant to Cardinal Timothy Dolan for media and communications; director of SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel, and theological adviser to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
22. David Lane, social-conservative activist and staunch opponent of gay marriage, who regularly steps into the political realm to promote Judeo-Christian values.
23. Mary Ann Glendon, a bioethics scholar and professor at Harvard Law School and a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.
24. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
25. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States.
26. David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby.
27. Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
28. Jim Winkler, president of the National Council of Churches.
29. Floyd Flake, pastor of Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Jamaica, New York, for nearly 30 years, responsible for growing its congregation to more than 18,000; former Democratic congressman.
30. Robert George, Princeton University professor of jurisprudence described by The New York Times as “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker”; drafter of the social-conservative Manhattan Declaration manifesto.
31. Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator, potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, and Catholic lay leader.
32. Mary Ann Swenson, bishop of the United Methodist Church and chairwoman of the Board Development Committee of the National Council of Churches.
33. Alan Sears, president and chief attorney of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
34. Reginald Jackson, bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
35. Charles Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia.
36. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and co-author with wife Grace of the bestselling book “Real Marriage.”
37. Tim Tebow, ESPN commentator and NFL quarterback recently picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles.
38. George O. Wood, chairman of Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination.
39. Michael Sweet, Christian rocker, lead singer of Stryper and Boston.
40. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
41. Eric Metaxas, speaker and author of the acclaimed biographies “Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery” and “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.”
42. Vashti Murphy McKenzie, first-ever female bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, first woman pastor of Payne Memorial AME Church in Baltimore.
43. Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
44. Charles Stanley, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, founder of In Touch Ministries, and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
45. James Towey, president of Ave Maria University in Florida and George W. Bush’s White House director of faith-based initiatives.
46. Creflo Dollar, televangelist, pastor, and preacher of prosperity theology; founder of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries.
47. Foley Beach, presiding archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, conservative breakaway from the Episcopal Church.
48. Marjorie Dannenfelser, founder and president of the Susan B. Anthony List PAC.
49. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of the family-friendly Movieguide, who also serves as chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission ministry. His annual gala awards ceremony has become a vehicle for promoting Christian values in Hollywood.
50. Chuck Norris, martial artist and actor, evangelical author.
51. Dan T. Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A.
52. Fred Luter, senior minister of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and first-ever black president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
53. Heath Rada, moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., and former American Red Cross executive.
54. Kirk Cameron, actor who starred on “Growing Pains” and filmmaker.
55. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, president of State University of New York at Old Westbury in Long Island, and founder and chairman of the Abyssinian Development Corporation.
56. Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, Bronx-born adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican and Dominican-order member of the powerful Roman Curia.
57. Michael W. McConnell, former federal judge and possible future Supreme Court nominee under a Republican president; co-editor of “Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought.”
58. Kirbyjon Caldwell, served as pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, the largest UM congregation in the country, for nearly three decades.
59. Bubba Watson, champion golfer and philanthropist.
60. Rob Renfroe, pastor of The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Houston.
61. Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, founder Ave Maria University, and leading Catholic philanthropist.
62. Carrie Underwood, country music artist.
63. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
64. Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago.
65. Gary Bauer, president of American Values, 2000 Republican presidential candidate, and Reagan administration domestic policy adviser.
66. Haddon Robinson, influential professor of homiletics and teacher on “Discover the Word” radio program who long served on the faculty of the Dallas Theological Seminary; former interim president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
67. Pat Boone, pop singer, actor, TV personality, author, and conservative activist.
68. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, first black head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
69. Bryan Chapell, senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.
70. Bill McCartney, College Football Hall of Fame coach and founder of Promise Keepers.
71. A.R. Bernard, founder and CEO of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York.
72. Charles Blake, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ denomination.
73. Lon Solomon, senior pastor at McLean Bible Church, an influential megachurch with multiple Washington, D.C.-area locations; chairman of the executive committee of the board of Jews for Jesus.
74. Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.
75. Joe Gibbs, retired Washington Redskins head coach who won three Super Bowls, and champion NASCAR team owner.
76. Andre Butler, senior pastor of Word of Faith International Christian Center based in Southfield, Michigan, with satellite churches in Pakistan and Africa.
77. Raymond Arroyo, TV host of “The World Over” on Eternal World Television Network.
78. Cynthia L. Hale, senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia.
79. Ralph Winter, leading Hollywood producer, in-demand Christian speaker.
80. William J. Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition and son of murdered atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
81. William P. Young, best-selling author of “The Shack.”
82. John F. MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles; influential preacher, radio host, and prolific author; president of the Master’s College in Newhall, California.
83. Russell Hittinger, professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa.
84. Brian Welch, Christian metal rocker.
85. David Murrow, founder of Church for Men, TV producer, and author.
86. Chuck Swindoll, senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas; longtime radio preacher on thousands of stations whose sermons are translated into more than a dozen languages and broadcast internationally.
87. Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor, vice-presidential candidate, and TV commentator.
88. Derek Fisher, retired record-setting NBA point guard and current New York Knicks head coach.
89. Gary Chapman, marriage counselor and author of “The 5 Love Languages” series.
90. Andy Andrews, self-help expert and author of the best-selling book “The Traveler’s Gift.”
91. Gavin MacLeod, actor who played Murray on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat.”
93. Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
94. Renita Weems, AME Church minister and author.
95. Jake Peavy, San Francisco Giants World Series-winning pitcher.
96. Paul LaLonde, co-founder of Cloud Ten Pictures.
97. Brad Stine, stand-up comedian.
98. Michael Jr., stand-up comedian who has appeared on “The Tonight Show” and other national talk shows.
99. John Eldredge, counselor and best-selling author of “Wild at Heart.”
100. Michael Waltrip, champion NASCAR driver, Fox TV racing commentator, and bestselling author.